Toronto man linked to anti-Islam film fears for life

A Coptic Christian activist say he fears for his family's safety after being accused of playing a role in the notorious anti-Islam film that has sparked violence throughout the Muslim world.

Coptic Christian Nader Fawzy denies involvement, worries about his family's safety

A Coptic Christian activist say he fears for his family's safety after being accused of playing a role in the notorious anti-Islam film that has sparked violence throughout the Muslim world.

Nader Fawzy, speaking at a news conference in Toronto on Saturday, said he has been the target of threats emanating from Egypt over the Innocence of Muslims trailer released on the internet over the summer.

Fawzy has long been an activist for Egypt's Coptic Christian community, which makes up one-tenth of that country's population.

Fawzy said his name appeared in a published list of people involved in the film, an action he says amounts to a fatwa, or religious edict.

He told reporters on Saturday he believes the Egyptian government put his name on the list out of revenge for his work as a Coptic activist who has campaigned for better treatment of Egypt's minority Christian population. 

"Once there is a fatwa, you don’t know who is coming to kill you, to shoot you," he said. "It's not just about the Egyptian government anymore. There is no safety at all. Once the fatwa is published, anyone can come to kill me or my kids or my family in Egypt."

The Egyptian government has issued arrest warrants for both Fawzy and another Egyptian-born Canadian, Jacques Attalla of Montreal, claiming they were involved in the film. Both Coptic Christians deny having anything to do with it.

But the men fear that being named in the warrants has made them targets for Muslim extremists, who've been encouraged by senior clerics to kill all those connected to the film.

Attalla has refused police protection, citing concerns that details could be leaked to foreign states.

"I need [a] confidential guy who can I trust and [that] he will not share the information with some foreign countries," he said.

Egypt's prosecutor general has issued arrest warrants for a number of Coptic Christians, primarily living in the United States, for alleged involvement with the controversial film, made in California.

Won't be silenced by threats

Fawzy said he can't let death threats by extremists intimidate him into silence about the treatment of Coptic Christians in Egypt or about the arrest warrant against him.

"I have to say it and say it loud," Fawzy told The Canadian Press on Friday. "If they start with [silencing] me today, they will continue with everyone in western world. Maybe you tomorrow, maybe after tomorrow someone else."

Following Saturday’s news conference, Fawzy went inside 42 Division headquarters of the Toronto Police Service. The CBC's Natalie Kalata reported that Fawzy intended to ask police for special protection in light of the potential threat to his life.

"I feel a little bit [of] protection but, still, I have the same fears for my kids," he told reporters after leaving the police station.

Liberal MP Jim Karygiannis, who stood by Fawzy's side during the news conference, has also been critical of the Harper government’s response to the situation, saying Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird should have spoken publicly about it.

When contacted about the latest development in the case Saturday, the Canadian government indicated it would continue with behind-the-scenes diplomacy.

"I'm not sure it does anyone any good to discuss these issues publicly. We'll certainly be working on this issue privately with the Egyptians," Rick Roth, a spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs, told CBC News.

With files from The Canadian Press